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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Pandemic Projects: Otis Orchards resident finds joy making wooden crosses after brain cancer treatment

By Cindy Hval For The Spokesman-Review

On Father’s Day weekend 2019, Scott Hendricks’ life forever changed.

The busy 42-year-old father of two teenage daughters felt good about his life. In January, he’d made a New Year’s resolution to be more positive.

“That really helped me at work, helped me lose weight and helped me be a better husband and father,” he recalled.

But while camping with his wife, Tori, he suffered a grand mal seizure. It wasn’t the first time. A few months earlier, he had woken up in the afternoon following a graveyard shift and feeling disoriented. Tori had urged him to see a doctor, but he didn’t. This time she had witnessed his seizure and called 911.

Hendricks was taken by ambulance to Newport Hospital where he had a CAT scan.

“The doctor told us he found a mass in my brain, and they transported me to Sacred Heart,” he said.

In July, he had surgery to remove the mass. The surgeon got as much as he could but wasn’t able to remove the entire tumor due to its location. A biopsy revealed Hendricks had astrocytoma – a slow-growing malignant cancer.

A year of chemo and radiation therapy followed. The tumor caused epilepsy, and Hendricks was unable to work or drive.

“I got a jump-start on social isolation,” he said.

The initial COVID-19-related shutdowns meant his wife, a teacher at Greenacres Elementary School, and his daughters, students at Central Valley High School, were home with him, but in November 2020, Tori returned to work.

As a natural extrovert, he struggled with the isolation. His daughters’ online classes meant he needed to be quiet around the house.

“I thought, ‘What am I going to do?’ ” Hendricks recalled. “My fear was I’d end up sitting around watching Netflix. I didn’t want that. My word for 2020 was ‘purpose.’ ”

Purpose arrived with a batch of oak boards.

“My mom dropped off a stack of boards and suggested I create something – she loaned me her table saw.”

He’d never been a woodworker, but with the holidays approaching he made several small decorative Christmas trees.

“I started giving them away, and it made me feel good,” he said. “Then my mom said, ‘What about crosses?’ ”

He looked online and found a photo.

“On Nov. 30, I gave my mom the first cross I’d made,” he said. “A month later I’d made 50 crosses.”

And he’d given them all away.

“It just took off and spread by word of mouth,” Hendricks said.

His sister told people at work, who told other people, and Hendricks picked up his phone and began to reconnect with old friends and East Valley classmates.

The crosses range in size from 6 inches to 24 inches . Some are coated with natural-finish stain, others are painted. All include a small red marble.

“It’s my trademark,” Hendricks said. “It stands for the blood of Christ.”

Instead of choosing a cross for someone, he prefers them to select their own from the large selection he has in his shop (currently 150).

One thing never ceases to amaze him – the crosses that he thinks have the most blemishes are invariably the first to be chosen.

“I think it’s kind of cool,” he said. “The imperfections I see are the way the cross is meant to be.”

Hendricks had given away more than 300 crosses to date and doesn’t accept payment for them. However, he has learned to accept donations of wood or gift cards that help defray the cost.

“The crosses are free because I’m being blessed in such a big way, I already feel like I’m being paid.”

His wife said the crosses have brought many relationships back to them, and they’ve been told many times that Scott’s call or gift of a cross has come at just the right time in someone’s life.

“I wouldn’t wish cancer on anybody,” Hendricks said. “But it’s hard for me to say I’d change it. So many blessings have come out of it.”

The tumor is monitored with regular MRI’s, and he’s been seizure-free for six months, but a constant headache is a daily reminder of his diagnosis.

When he thinks back to the day he got the news two years ago, he also remembers his reaction.

“The doctors said you could live 10 years. I thought I could live one year, 50 years, or a long, full life,” Hendricks said. “That doesn’t matter. What matters is the impact I can make today.”

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Cindy Hval can be reached at dchval@juno.com

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